Enablers of transdisciplinary collaboration for researchers working on climate risks in African cities.
This study explores enablers that help researchers undertake collaborative transdisciplinary work with non-academic actors to co-produce knowledge on complex climate risks in African cities. Enablers were explored using a qualitative case study approach and expansive learning theory, which emphasizes the embeddedness of practices in cultural and historical contexts. Concepts associated with expansive learning helped to consider relational enablers, namely: (i) capabilities required by researchers to understand the perspectives, values, and motives of non-academic actors and make their own explicit; (ii) characteristics of spaces that allowed diverse participants to engage with perspectives, values, and motives of others; and (iii) knowledge of the motivation behind different practices of non-academic actors, as embedded in different contexts. Findings highlight the importance of researchers’ intentional efforts to engage non-academic actors in their city contexts and respond to local priorities. Design elements that enabled relational work included explicit co-production framings, sharing experiences, and opportunities for understanding various actor groups through structured activities and informal dialogues. The study highlights the situated and dialectical relationship between the growing relational capabilities of researchers and their engagement in transdisciplinarity, provided spaces were created for reflection on activities. Relational enablers helped researchers to understand the heterogeneous experiences of actors working in African cities and the tensions that influence their practices including traditional knowledge paradigms and siloed ways of working. The “champions” identified by researchers were those non-academic actors who took the agency to engage with these tensions and transform their practices towards multi-actor transdisciplinary knowledge co-production.